DVD Review: Watchmen – The Complete Motion Comic

This review is, of course, over a year late – seeing as the Watchmen craze well and truly died after Zac Snyder’s rather juvenile attempt at a film version last year. (Or was it the year before that?)

This DVD is rather an interesting project – it’s the original Watchmen graphic novel (minus the articles and short stories and other text-based features that you would read at the end of each of the 12 issues if you bought the book) animated frame by frame. So effectively you can watch the complete book as it was drawn. The back of the DVD warns you that the book is brought to life with “limited motion, voice and sound”. So it’s by no means an animated feature film. Instead, it’s each frame of the comic, moving as much as possible. And despite the word “limited”, there’s actually quite a lot of motion in this motion comic.

Curtains rustle in the breeze, papers blow along the street, characters walk. Some of the transitions from frame to frame (such as the zoom in and zoom out effects that Gibbons and Moore were trying to create in the original) are all preserved and, in fact, enhanced. Even speech bubbles and captions appear on screen (although they are narrated out loud), so nothing has been cut from the visuals here.

I quite enjoyed this, as a way of reliving the comic (which I’d already read). My main quibble is with the narration. Believe it or not, the whole book – every character – is voiced by one Tom Stechschulte. Don’t get me wrong – he does a great job – and every character has a unique and different voice characterisation and if you didn’t know it was one guy, you might be tempted to think it was several. But it’s quite jarring when the female characters suddenly start speaking in a male voice, and I really wish they could have got a female actress in to do the voice parts for them. Would that have been too much trouble or cost?

Other than that, whether you’ll like it or not is a different matter. If you’re a Watchmen fan already, presumably you have the books and you’ve seen the film – do you really want to see the book acted out blow by blow? Probably, like I did, you would buy this if you were curious to get a glimpse of what Watchmen would have looked like had the film been more faithful to the source material. Certainly, it’s less Neanderthal than Snyder’s dressed-up excuse for lots of gut-wrenching slo-mo violence. But, at the same time, watching a comic book unfold like this also makes you realise that there are differences between books and film. And so sometimes the pacing of the thing is quite slow. (Which is to be expected, given that it takes 12 half-hour episodes for the whole thing to unfold.)

All in all, though, I would keep this one as an interesting film of Watchmen, much more so than Snyder’s film, which on the second viewing became even more flawed. I haven’t yet seen his “Ultimate Cut”, which might fix things up a bit, but I’m not so convinced his film can be saved.

4 out of 5.

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Book Review: Conspiracy 365 – April (Gabrielle Lord)

Almost caught up on all of these  . . . can I say, one thing I really think more books should have is page numbering like this series. The numbering runs backwards, so when you look down and see you’re on page 77, it means you have 77 pages to go (rather than knowing you’re only 77 pages into it).

Can you imagine how helpful this would be on something like War and Peace? Instead of knowing that you’d only knocked over 100 pages, you could instead know that you have 1,100 to go . . .

All right – maybe it wouldn’t work for every book. But I like it.

This book is somewhat more frustrating than the others, because Callum was on his way to visit his grand-uncle to see if he could find out some useful information – however that was hijacked at the end of March, and about a third of this book is taken up with the events of April 1, which then set Callum right back to square one again.

Thus he spends most of this book on the run, without necessarily finding out a lot of useful information.

And no run-ins with animals, either. Maybe that’s what’s disappointing me the most.

However, don’t get me wrong – there’s still plenty going on here:

***SPOILER ALERT***

Callum is never out of danger, including a brief stint on an Army firing range and stowing away in a car boot. By the end of the book, in a surprising twist, Callum finds himself well and truly locked up (but not by the police, which is what he’s been expecting).

***END OF SPOILERS***

Anyway, thankfully, I have the May book and could move straight on to it …

3 out of 5.

Book Review: Conspiracy 365 – March (Gabrielle Lord)

Here we go – it’s now March and Callum Ormond is still on the run. He’s successfully escaped the horrendous fate awaiting him at the end of February but has managed to get himself into yet another scrape. This book is possibly the most relentless one yet, with far-fetched escape after far-fetched escape.

What’s amusing (and also raising the tension) is that Callum is only ever a step ahead of both the cops and the crims – so he really is on the run from absolutely everyone.

My favourite set piece in this one is a chapter involving a snake venom laboratory.

***SPOILER WARNING***

It’s not often you get a main character smash open a glass cage of death adders, get bitten, and then have to race against time to get to the antivenom room. I was pretty impressed. What with sharks in January and lions in February, the natural world has really got it in for this kid.

***SPOILERS OVER***

The book climaxes with Callum attempting to steal the mysterious Ormond Riddle, escaping by the skin of his teeth, and then doing his best to escape town. I think definitely a change of location would be good for all of us. (Though my prediction is that this series will end up in Ireland, the place where Callum’s dad went in the previous year, and came home sick.) But we shall see…

4 out of 5.

Newness Block – Email Newsletters

I sat down to look through my emails last weekend (about the only time I find I have a solid block to read and reply to them). And I went through and unsubscribed to most of the email newsletters I had received over the last week, again making a note of which ones I’d unsubscribed to. They generally fell into three categories, which was quite interesting:

The Irritating – You know the ones. Hotel chains, clothing stores. Some place where you gave your email address, completely forgot you’d done it, and then they send you an email out of the blue. I can’t even remember the last time I stayed at a Rydges hotel, and yet there they are sending me emails. These ones are really easy to get rid of, because I never read them anyway. It’s just that it’s always been easier to hit delete than look for the unsubscribe link. But now, after this purge, both I and the company sending the emails are being completely honest with each other – the relationship wasn’t really working.

The Guilt-Inducing – These ones are more interesting. There are a number of email newsletters that I was signed up to because they’re related to something I felt guilty that I should be doing (and most likely wasn’t doing). An email newsletter for a writing course. An email newsletter from a missionary that I signed up to once ages ago at a one-off meeting, even though it’s not a missionary I’m ever likely to meet again and is not supported by our church. Frequent Flyer emails (I know I should check what miles I have and be vigilant to look for an offer, but I never do…). By unsubscribing from them, I was kind of admitting that actually I may not get around to these things for a long while (if at all), which was hard to admit to. But, once I had done that and unsubscribed, by cutting them back, I immediately felt like I’d free up some energy.

The Right-Buttons Emails – These are the hard ones to unusubscribe from. They come in, and they push all the right buttons to make you want to spend money. Emails from cinemas advertising special movies. Emails from book stores. Not that I’m saying I’m completely avoiding book stores and movies. But the point is, to be in control of these things, you have to be the one saying – “I think I’ll go to the movies; what’s on?” Or, “I think I’ll buy a book.” But if you weren’t planning to go to the movies or to buy a book (especially if you’re on a budget), do you really need this kind of stimulus to impulse buy? I think I’d just rather wait until I definitely want to buy something and then visit the website or the store.

So, yes, all in all, it’s been rather a good purge.

Book Review: Conspiracy 365 – February (Gabrielle Lord)

And it’s only getting better as Conspiracy 365 continues into February. Our 15-year-old hero, Callum Ormond, managed to get himself out of the oily scrape he found himself in at the end of January, but things only get more confusing. There’s now a girl thrown into the mix – but can he trust her? Mysterious doppelgangers, an illuminating stained glass window, more chases, and – get this – he finds himself at the zoo in the lion’s cage.

It’s starting to get a bit exhausting, all this running around (in January, Callum was hiding out in a house, but now he’s taken to storm water drains, which – believe me – is as dangerous as it sounds). But Gabrielle Lord is slowly teasing out the mystery of what happened to Callum’s father, and what the mysterious drawings mean. It’s this mystery that drives Callum (and us, the readers) to keep on reading.

And, of course, it all comes to a head in another cliff-hanger climax involving a train and a tunnel. Need I say more? Just as much fun as the first one, but at this pace, we could lose steam as the story progresses. We’ll see. I’m certainly wondering what Callum is going to do once the winter kicks in…

4 out of 5.

Newness Block: RSS Feeds

Oddly enough, even finding time to implement a newness block has been an issue. Anyway, the first and simplest thing that I took a sledgehammer to was my RSS feeds. You may not be an RSS junkie – I find it comes in waves with me. Sometimes I’d reading all the time. Other times, I don’t feel like touching it for a few weeks.

Anyway, as a first step, I went and unsubscribed from a lot of my feeds. In fact, I unsubscribed from every feed I had unless it was a blog of someone I knew personally (I do still want to know what you’re up to…), either online or offline. I think the only two exceptions to this were the Daily Lost feed, only because with three weeks left to go before it will all be over, I’m enjoying these last days of keeping up with the hype. The other exception was Greg Sandow’s blog on the future of classical music, but given that I still rub shoulders with him on Twitter, he’s kind of a friend. He still has a lot of good stuff to say.

I should say the other key to this is that I wrote down a list of the blogs that I unsubscribed from, so if next month I decide to subscribe again, I can. But it’s amazing how having a few weeks off from something can make you realise that you don’t really miss it that much…

Next big thing is to try and stop the number of emails coming in…but that seems like a weekend task.

An Addiction to Newness

I blog about this every so often (or at least I think I do), so forgive me if you’ve heard this one before, but I have an addiction to newness. And the reason I’m blogging about it is because, at least at the present moment, it’s become particularly irritating.

So what do I mean, and why does it bother me?

Because I haven’t seen a lot written about it, I’m not sure what the technical term is for it, so I can really only describe the symptoms for me. But it works like this:

I’m at my happiest when I’m starting a new project or buying or otherwise acquiring something new. The things that I get most excited about are new projects that I haven’t even begun or new objects that I don’t own.

That may not make perfect sense, so I’ll tell you how it breaks down across a number of areas:

Books – I love collecting books more than I like reading them. So subsequently I have approximately 150 unread books sitting at home that I haven’t read. Some of them dating back to when I was a teenager. And this 150, mind you, is after I culled all the books that I was kidding myself that I would ever get to read in the next 10 years. However, even despite having all this reading mapped out, I still often feel the urge to buy more.

Films – I have a reasonable DVD collection at home and several TV series on DVD on the go. And yet  I’m always excited by the idea of starting another TV series or watching another movie – much more so than finishing the ones I’m watching.

People – I love meeting new people. I always find it quite exciting to be in a room with a bunch of people that I haven’t met. The possibilities are endless. However, I find it really hard to maintain contact with most of my friends. (I feel a bit better this week because I organised a picnic to catch up with some of my friends from Brisbane, but still that was more of an exception.)

Where newness gets particularly draining is online:

Email – I’m always checking my email (which can be done even more frequently if you’re carrying an iPhone with you). Why? Because there might be a new email in there to make life exciting. However, I don’t show anywhere near as much interest in replying to emails that I already have.

RSS – I love coming across a blog that sounds good to read. So I add it to the RSS reader. But then I have hundreds of posts coming in, which I feel obligated to catch up with, and that takes time too. But I like them, because they’re new.

Window Shopping – I also find that if I go into any sort of store, like a CD or a DVD store, that I find myself eyeing off new things that I could get stuck into. And I like big new things as well. (100 CDs of Beethoven’s music? Sounds great! 32 DVDs of Seinfeld? Yeah, it’d be great fun to watch all them!)

However, I have lots of these sort of projects sitting at home, with virtually nothing happening to them. I’m still not completely finished all the extras on The Lord of the Rings extended editions, but I’ve bought lots of DVDs in the meantime. I’m still midway through The Complete Sandman. I do actually own the aforementioned 100-CD Beethoven set, and I’m still listening to that as well.

And let me tell you, good as these things all are, they were most exciting when they were in the bag on the way home from the shops (or when I first ripped open the parcel when it got mailed to me). After that, they become ordinary, less exciting. Still good, mind you, but not as exciting as the thing I don’t own or the thing I haven’t started. And I could point to hundreds of things, and possibly thousands of dollars I’ve spent on things which I want to do/read/watch one day, that I’m still not finished yet.

The closest I’ve come to a diagnosis of why I like new stuff so much is really, I think, the Bible’s teaching on contentment and wealth. While some people like to read the Bible and find a justification for a left-wing agenda, there’s not a lot of that in there really. There’s plenty of wealthy people in the Bible who followed God, and they only got wealthier. There’s not really anything wrong with that.

But the people who do get a mention and a talking to, are those people who make their life revolve around their stuff and particularly their pursuit of stuff. This I completely understand. If you’re not careful, you hit a point where the stuff means a lot less than the actual acquiring of stuff. But at least in my observation, I don’t think that’s just limited to things you buy. It could be that all of this is symptomatic of a discontentment with the things you’ve got, and a drive to get more / consume more. Which is really a way of saying that newness is becoming the focus of your life, the thing that determines what you do and don’t do. In the Bible, anything that determines what you do and don’t do is usually called your idol or your god. You may not think of it in those terms, but it is helpful for me to be reminded about how strong this thing actually is.

I’ll talk more about this hopefully over the course of the month, because to counteract this drive for newness, I’m going to implement something I tried a couple of years ago (which I found really effective) called a Newness Block. The idea was to see if I could stem the flow of newness into my life and free up more mental energy for other things. So I’m going to give it a try again. I’ll come back soon and explain a bit more about what it involves. You never know, if you’re as addicted to newness as I am, you might like to join in…